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U.K. Government Eyes Digital Future

Vaizey announces further investment in local DAB coverage and other initiatives

During the Go Digital Conference, which is taking place today in London, Ed Vaizey, the minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries in the United Kingdom, confirmed the government’s vision of a digital future for radio and said he wanted to continue to improve the service, and reach coverage and listening criteria before a radio switchover, according to Digital Radio UK.

“I absolutely believe that the future of radio in this country is digital. We cannot go backwards.

The radio listener will get a much better service, and better functionality,” said Vaizey. “There will be far more choice, with many more stations. The U.K. is at the forefront of developments in digital radio. This package of measures is intended to cement this and herald in a digital age, as and when the consumer is ready.”

A second national commercial multiplex in 2014, which will allow for new national stations on DAB was also revealed. These major initiatives, explains Digital Radio UK, will help toward meeting the switchover coverage and listening criteria, and support the preparations for a future radio switchover.

Vaizey explained that the U.K. is not yet ready for a radio switchover and that consumer listening and DAB coverage criteria would need to be met in order for switchover dates to be set. However, he also pointed out that additional measures are being carried out to aid the transition. These include funding for Ofcom to develop a route to digital for small local stations, and the insertion by the country’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency of information about digital radio in all vehicle tax reminders.

Steve Holebrook from Arqiva, Will Harding from Global Radio, Helen Boaden from BBC, Paul Keenan from Bauer Media and Minister Ed Vaizey.

“This is the biggest boost to local DAB coverage in many years, and a great result for listeners all over the country,” said Ashley Tabor, founder and executive president of Global. “We are delighted that local DAB coverage will finally match FM coverage for local commercial radio stations. We want all our local stations, that are part of the Capital and Heart networks, to enjoy good coverage on DAB, and this will soon be a reality as a result of this agreement. The real winner here is the listener.”

Other news at the Go Digital Conference included the announcement of a new digital “tick” mark for radios and in-car installers, which would be licensed for approved radio sets that meet minimum criteria (including DAB and FM) as set out in the government-industry Digital Radio Action Plan, and for registered installers who successfully pass a training program.

In order for the U.K. government to set a date for digital radio switchover digital, listening must reach 50 percent of all listening hours, local commercial and national DAB coverage should reach FM equivalence, and there must be significant progress on conversion of cars to digital radio.